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Kazakhstan pres. steps down after 30 years in office

MOSCOW, March 19 (KUNA) -- Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev on Tuesday announced his retirement after nearly 30 years as leader of the central Asian nation.
The 78-year-old, who has led the oil-rich country since the fall of the Soviet Union, made the announcement in a surprise public address on national television.
"I have taken a decision, which was not easy for me, to resign as president," Nazarbayev was quoted by Kazakhstan's news agency as saying.
"This year it will be 30 years since I took on highest post. The people gave me the opportunity to be the first president of independent Kazakhstan," he said.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the speaker of the upper house of parliament, will take over as the country's acting president for the remainder of his term in line with the constitution, Nazarbayev added. (end) as.mt